Christian Living

Loving Peace

So as I’ve mentioned I’m working my way through Beth Moore’s James study—I really can’t believe it’s been five years since I last did it! Time seriously flies. Anyway, recently I found myself wrestling/praying through these verses:

James 3:17-18 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. (NIV)

I want this kind of wisdom. Far too often, I feel like I have no clue how to handle various things in my life. I want God to tell me what the best thing to do is. The bit that hit me was the peace-loving section. Recently, I’ve had a couple people question the distance I have in one of my relationships in particular. Frankly, it’s not a popular decision to cut contact with someone. And, obviously, I’m not recommending anyone do that unless you’re in an abusive situation or you’ve spent a bunch of time praying about it and God gives you some clear direction. And if you haven’t tried to fix the relationship via the Matthew 18 stuff, I’d be hesitant to jump to cutting contact.

So as I’ve been praying about it, I’ve wondered if I’m not being peace-loving. It’s interesting how tempting it is to define peace as an absence of conflict. The advice I’ve been given (and that I think is given far too often in the Church) is to forget what that person did so that the conflict will be over.

One of the things I’m really passionate about is the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. Forgiveness is when you let go of what the other person did. You trust that God will take care of the offense and you move on with life. It only involves you and God. It’s about your heart. Reconciliation is when both parties work to fix the relationship by each identifying and acknowledging the wrong they’ve done and working to not do it again.

If someone is not trustworthy, forgiveness doesn’t mean that you trust them. It means that you don’t hang onto the wrong anymore—praise God that through the power of the Holy Spirit we can do this! I love that we have a God who is faithful to right wrongs. I love that we can forgive people and move on with our lives instead of being stuck in the past by our bitterness. God’s way of doing relationships is just so amazing to me.

Anyway, as I was praying about what it means to be peace-loving in this context, something struck me: peace-loving equals loving true peace—not giving into denial or sweeping things under the rug. Peace-loving doesn’t mean an absence of conflict. Real healthy relationships require dealing with the things that actually happen. See, reconciliation is a process that requires both parties to own up to their mistakes and then to become better people—it’s a huge growth process. Being peace-loving means being willing to actually go through that process. Being peace-loving means acknowledging your problems—after all, wisdom from above is first of all pure. Like Jesus says, you can’t help someone with the speck in their eye unless you take the log out of your own first.

I’ve been told that holding out for true reconciliation is actually holding onto bitterness but, after studying this passage (and some others like Matt. 18, 1 Cor. 5 & 2 Cor. 2:5-11), I disagree. In my experience, if you “resolve” the conflict by pretending the problem wasn’t there or by taking all the blame for it, nothing actually gets solved and the conflict comes back up the next time a similar situation happens—probably because neither person is dealing with how they need to change.

Real reconciliation takes two. You can’t reconcile with someone who’s unwilling to deal with the problems. And real reconciliation is the kind of true peace that forces us to grow and leads to righteousness.

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The Power of Remembrance

Psalm 106:7, 21-25 ~ When our fathers were in Egypt, they gave no thought to your miracles, they did not remember your many kindnesses, and they rebelled by the Sea, the Red Sea . . . They forgot the God who saved them, who had done great things in Egypt, miracles in the land of Ham and awesome deeds by the Red Sea. So he said he would destroy them–had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him to keep his wrath from destroying them. Then they despised the pleasant land; they did not believe his promise. They grumbled in their tents and did not obey the LORD. (NIV–emphasis mine)

This passage is so challenging! We see a progression that ends in disobedience. I think most believers can agree that we focus on trying to NOT disobey. Often, however, there’s little thought to the process that begets disobedience. What are the steps before disobedience and how do I stop the process before I get to that point? How do I even recognize that I’m headed that direction?

I’ve really appreciated various Bible teachers who’ve brought up this idea of sin being a point at the end of a path. They’ve encouraged me to stop and think (sometimes after I’m already at my destination) about what point I turned down said path. When did I decide to sin? What got me to the place where that was a viable option? Quite often I’ve found my sin is a natural outflow of unbelief. I don’t believe God is holy. I don’t believe that He loves me and has my best interests at heart. I don’t believe His ways are the best ways. I don’t see Him for who He is or myself for who I am. Lies cloak my worldview so that I can mouth one thing and yet live out something completely different.

So back up. Before unbelief you find them forgetting who God is and what He’s done. They neglect to remember. They give no thought to the things God has done.

Reading the story of the Exodus has always baffled me in some respects. How could a people see such vivid evidences of God’s presences and still rebel? How could the generation who saw the 10 plagues and watched God part the Red Sea, who experienced daily miracles, be the same one who was too afraid to enter the promised land?

They gave no thought to the things God did for them. They forgot who He is. They neglected to remember.

Two years ago, in an effort to remember, I started journaling whatever God had taught me or however I had seen Him work that particular day. It was incredibly eye-opening! I found myself on alert for whatever blessings God would pour on me that day. I’d always believed God blesses us, but I hadn’t always had eager eyes to see it on a daily basis. I also discovered how fallible my memory is. In my Bible study one morning I would be struck to the core about a certain sinful pattern. Two weeks later I’d find myself journaling about the same thing, not having thought about it since my original entry.

I want to be a person who gives thought to what God does for me and who He is . . . a woman who meditates on God and His Word. I want to arrange my life around remembering rather than waking up months later discovering I’ve rebelled and done the very thing God told me not to do and now my heart is so calloused that I despise the places God calls me to . . . I want to be someone who heads disobedience off at the pass by doing the hard work of remembering.

So, any tricks you’ve found helpful for keeping God and His works in the forefront of your mind?